It's been five years since the two schools have met in a meaningful game and neither coach was around when the Vikings beat Menlo to open the 2012-13 season.
Palo Alto (2-0), the defending tournament champions, and Menlo (3-0) are both defending league champions and both are currently undefeated and favored to repeat as league champs.
The Vikings won the Central Coast Section Division I title with a thrilling, last-second shot from Spencer Rojahn at Santa Clara University.
The Knights won the CCS Division IV title with a dramatic, last-second shot from JH Tevis at Santa Clara High.
Menlo moved into the championship game with a convincing 69-44 victory over Aragon on Wednesday. Palo Alto topped league rival Los Altos, 57-37, in equally convincing fashion.
Menlo began pulling away midway through the first period. Sophomore Cole Kastner recorded steals on consecutive possessions and Sam Fortenbaugh sank the first of a trio of 3-pointers in the span of under two minutes. Fortenbaugh finished with 12 points, all on 3s.
Menlo senior Joe Foley scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds, recorded four assists and made four steals. Riley Woodson, also a senior, recorded 12 rebounds and eight points. Junior Nate Solomon contributed 12 points.
For Palo Alto, Spencer Rojahn scored 17 points to lead the way, including three 3-pointers. Jared Wulbrun added 14, also with a trio of 3-pointers. Max Dorward had 12.
In another tournament game, Sacred Heart Prep lost to Stuart Hall, 55-40, and will play host Burlingame on Friday at 3:30 p.m. Eric DeBrine scored 14 points for the Gators.
Ila Lane scored 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds but Priory fell to host South San Francisco, 49-41, in a nonleague game.
Annabelle North added eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, Dominque Robson also hit a 3-pointer as the Panthers (1-3) played their third game without senior guard Tatiana Reese, who is out with an ankle injury.
Priory, the defending CCS Division V champion, meets Marin Catholic at 9 a.m. Saturday as part of the Bay Area Elite Showcase at Laney College.
Defending state Division V champion Eastside College Prep (1-2) takes on Sacramento's Bradshaw Christian in the Showcase at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Eastside will also play Lynwood at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Menlo-Atherton (1-2), which reached the second round of the NorCal regional playoffs last year, meets Clovis West at 7 p.m. Friday and St. Francis at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Elsewhere, Woodside dropped a 43-15 decision to host Los Altos, who was led by Mahika Gupta with 10 points.
Woodside (0-4) hosts Piedmont Hills at 6 p.m. Friday.
Menlo School followed its Marin Catholic tournament championship with a 56-34 nonleague victory over visiting North Salinas on Tuesday.
Mallory North scored 20 points, including four 3-pointers, as Menlo is off to its best start since opening the 2000-01 season with 11 straight wins. Freshman Coco Layton added 14 points and Avery Lee had 11 points.
The Knights (4-0) host Fremont-Oakland at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Freshman Niki Chen scored 12 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers, but Castilleja fell to visiting Mills, 49-26, in a nonleague contest Tuesday. The Gators (2-3) are playing in The King's Academy tournament this weekend.
Senior Chloe Gong scored 19 points but Gunn (1-4) fell to host Carlmont, 68-37. Jessalyn Grant-Bier and Amber Fu combined for another 17 points.
Isiah Schoenberger scored the only goal of the game in Palo Alto's 1-0 nonleague victory over visiting Menlo-Atherton on Tuesday.
The Vikings (3-0) meet Lincoln-San Jose at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at the Homestead tournament.
The Bears (0-1) meet Alvarez at 11:30 a.m. at Homestead on Saturday.
Menlo started strong but eventually fell, 2-0, to host Aragon on Wednesday in a nonleague match.
The Knights (0-1-1) created a few chances in the first 15 minutes of the match and had a second-half goal rescinded due to offside.
Menlo hosts University-San Francisco at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Ernesto Cruz never left Palo Alto High, he just left the soccer coaching sidelines for about 10 years. He returned this season and things are pretty much the same. The Vikings are off to solid start, winning their first three games, including Monday's 1-0 nonleague victory over visiting St. Francis.
"There's so much talent on this team that I'm using the preseason to give everybody an opportunity," Cruz said. "We'll have our starters in for 10 minutes and then see how it goes. Right now it's not about winning or losing. We're focusing on league."
Paly has already played, and shut out, two teams that were in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs last year and Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Mitty will be its third Open team.
Castilleja opened its season on a positive note, beating visiting KIPP Collegiate at El Camino Park in Palo Alto on Tuesday.
Lauren Ashby, who scored twice in the first 20 minutes, Violet Glickman and Alexa Libbey each scored twice for the Gators, who play at Urban at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Ally Dickson, Mariel Gunadi, Hannah Ashby, Olivia Watson, Amanda Khu also scored. Moorea Mitchell earned the shutout in goal.
This story contains 896 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.